“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
― Samuel Johnson


“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,”  2 Peter 1:12-13


Worship is more about reminding us of what we know than it is about learning new things. Worship is where we practice relationship with God and where we are reminded about God and who He is as well as about who we are and how we fit in.

Worship occurs in the context of a Christian backdrop, whether or not every word is explicitly Christian. Without this Christian backdrop, those very same words may come off as merely psychological self-help and the same songs as simply some nice words with a tune and a beat.

This backdrop makes the assumption of a common background drawn from basic biblical knowledge and Christian principles learned from common stories, songs, and practices. New people coming in to worship and to faith begin to assimilate this background material as they join in.

For much of the 20th century we had a shared homogenous culture. When comedians referred to Shakespeare, people got the joke. Church attendance was something that respectful people did. Even non- Christian people had general biblical knowledge so they understood allusions like to David and Goliath.  Since even non- church people who attended a service would share basic cultural understandings, it was easier for all to connect to the backdrop.

Today, much of this shared cultural experience has broken down. Church attendance is not the norm.  A generation is being raised up with no biblical knowledge.

Contrast this with a church world in which leaders are trying to create an experience that is attractive to people that are far from God. In order to be engaging and up-to-date, they abandon practices that they consider to be old-fashioned or out of style. Many of these church traditions are no longer useful or relevant. Some are even detrimental. They should discard these. In the process, however, they may inadvertently abandon things that should be a part of the backdrop of worship.

A church I served had a dynamic children’s ministry featuring a cool, entertaining, child friendly activity- complete with all of the bells and whistles every Sunday morning. During the Christmas season, a mother told me of her first grade daughter coming home from school, really excited at having   learned a new song. She thought it would be a great song to teach to the people at church. The name of the song was   “Away in a Manger”.

In an effort to be new and fresh, some churches no longer use the old stories and songs. After all, “everybody already knows them”. So  cute, humorous  stories and upbeat songs replace traditionally taught Bible stories and songs like “Away in a Manger” and “Jesus Loves Me” are pushed to the side.

The problem is that people aren’t born knowing these stories and songs. So teach them. If we don’t build this heritage into people, there will be less and less richness to the texture of the common background that is foundational to Christianity and to worship. We will all be the poorer for it.

So teach the important truths of the faith. Teach it in new ways. Teach it in tried and true ways.

As Marva Dawn pointed out, “When the Psalmist said, ‘Sing to the Lord a new song’ he immediately proceeded to quote an old one.”

People do need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed- , but this assumes that they have been instructed in the first place. Please don’t neglect building the foundation. We have a rich heritage. Don’t throw it away.

What you see is all there is

No matter what you do or how you do it, the worship you lead will shape people.

…Whether you are intentional or haphazard

…Whether your purpose is clearly articulated or fuzzy

…Whether your content is rich and substantive or shallow and meaningless

You will reap what you sow, producing that fruit in the people you lead.


Would you rather be intentional, clear and substantive or haphazard, fuzzy and trite? If you are going to shape people anyway, why not aspire to do it in such a way as to make a positive difference in the lives of the worshipers you lead. In order to be intentional, clear and substantive, however, you must first have a clear definition of worship in your mind. Without a clear definition of worship you can’t have a clear direction where you are going nor a clear way to measure if you get there. If you are not clear within yourself, there’s no way you can make it clear for your followers.

If you do not have a clear definition of worship, you are not alone.

Many worship leaders really haven’t given it much thought. Oh, they can regularly produce worship according to a prescribed format built on what they have learned and experienced which consists of what they like, perceive others to like, or what is deemed appropriate in their tribe. They watch and imitate what others are doing, acting on the assumption that if they select the right song, or preach the right sermon, people will like it and will hopefully be blessed, inspired, and connected with God. Thinking in terms of the music they like or a style of worship they find appropriate, musicians build worship on an emotional connection or on the songs themselves. All the while, though, they don’t have a clear picture of what the result of worship should look like.

Because of the busyness involved in just preparing and leading each week, many worship leaders don’t feel they have the time to think about the purposes and results of worship. As soon as one week’s services are complete, the process starts over in preparing for the next week. On top of this are the demands of other ministry tasks as well as the activities of life itself.

In our culture today, little value is given to the importance of margins for space to ponder and think. Social media can also distract us and absorb any marginal time.

It is no wonder that the easiest path for the worship leader is to lead worship that follows a comfortable pattern. But the easiest path is not always our best nor the best way to grow God’s people.

Practicing relationship with God through worship is the lifeblood for Christians and its leadership is a calling we should take seriously.


Gathered worship has a natural rhythm. This rhythm should draw people to encounter God together. At the same time, gathered worship should also teach a rhythm that builds personal worship. Ongoing personal worship feeds gathered worship and gathered worship feeds personal worship. Neither is sufficient by itself. Together, they should nurture Christian growth that produces people who are more Christ-like, obviously exhibiting the fruit of the spirit in their lives.

None of this is about the style of music or of preaching. Rather, it is about purposefully building worship to nurture transformation and Christ-like living: worship in which worshipers praise, honor and adore God, tune their hearts to God’s heart and listen, remember and are reminded what God has done, and obediently respond to God’s calling.

What you see is all there is. Clarify your thinking! Begin to see more!

Mother’s Standards

Congratulating a friend after her son and daughter got married within a month of each other, a woman asked, “What kind of boy did your daughter marry?”

“Oh, he’s wonderful,” gushed the mother. “He lets her sleep late, wants her to get her nails done regularly, and insists on taking her out to dinner every night.”

“That’s sounds lovely,” said the woman. “What about your son?”

“I’m not so happy about that,” the mother sighed. “His wife sleeps late, spends all her time getting her nails done, and makes them eat take-out meals!”

Fear and Pride or Joy and Freedom.

Have you ever known anyone to seek out a counselor because of a problem with pride? Me neither.  Fear, maybe, but pride, never. Yet fear and pride are closely related.  They are common conditions often feeding each other in a vicious circle, and are the root of most sin. We all have our fears, but are generally too proud to acknowledge most of them. We can easily spot pride in others, but rarely see it in ourselves, and even then would probably afraid to admit it.

The reason people lie, cheat, and steal is fear and pride.

They fear that they can’t get ahead, that they don’t measure up or fit in. They fear being poor, or hungry, or left out. Being too proud to be seen as poor, hungry, left out, or in any way in need, they feel that they must put up an image of superiority, competence or sophistication. To keep up the image they cut corners as they lie, cheat, and steal.

The reason people don’t lie, cheat, and steal is also fear and pride.

The fear that they will be caught, look bad, or embarrass themselves keeps them from cutting corners. They have pride that “their kind of people” don’t do those kind of things. They also take pride in being a good person, or at least keeping up that impression so that they do not let down their family or tribe. Fear and pride work together to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Religious people are not exempt. Many attend worship or pray because of fear and pride. They fear that God will punish them if they don’t. They fear that they won’t measure up or fit in. They take pride in how righteous they are, even to the extent that they are morally superior because they attend a church, synagogue or mosque.

Muslims believe that they will go to paradise based on the good works that they do. The only problem is that they won’t know if they’ve done enough until after they’ve already died. So they live in fear that they haven’t done enough.

Many professing Christians are much the same way. They believe that they are good people and hope they will go to heaven. This transactional approach reasons that if you pray enough, are sincere enough, love God enough, (or you fill in the blank enough) He will reward you with His grace and love.

You don’t have to live that way. The truth is that salvation and the abundant life are not the result of what we do but on what Christ has done for us on the cross. Therefore, worship should not be a grueling duty but a joyful expression as we come into the presence of a Holy God. Remember and be reminded! Don’t forget the joy of Easter worship and continue to reflect that joy each time you lead in worship.

Dear John Response

A Marine stationed overseas received a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend back home. It read as follows:

Dear Ricky,

I can no longer continue our relationship. The distance between us is just too great. I must admit that I have cheated on you twice since you’ve been gone, and it’s not fair to either of us. I’m sorry. Please return the picture of me that I sent to you.




The Marine, with hurt feelings, asked his fellow Marines for any snapshots they could spare of their girlfriends, sisters, ex-girlfriends, aunts, cousins, etc. In addition to the picture of Becky, Ricky included all the other pictures of the pretty gals he had collected from his buddies. There were 57 photos in that envelope, along with this note.

Dear Becky,

I’m sorry, but I can’t quite remember who you are. Please take your picture from the pile and send the rest back to me.




“You can plant a church and grow a church. That’s not that hard to do, but it’s harder to be a viable source of transformation in a city or your time or space.”  Erwin McManus

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

Implementing Purposeful Worship

Leading purposeful worship is hard. It requires intent and probably means some changes in the way you think and act.

Think about it for a moment

If worship is an encounter with God, then it should make a difference in our lives.

When we encounter God in worship:

It should show in our actions, thoughts, and attitudes.

When we encounter God in worship:

We should expect transformation, in us and in our fellow worshipers.

All of this should challenge how we plan and carry out worship.


Worship should move us from just accumulating Information to actually transforming lives.

More than just learning a bunch of facts and insights about God or saying nice things about Him, purposeful worship expects the transformation of lives, not just through inspiring stories in others, but in ourselves.


Worship should move us from merely a religious ritual to a life-giving relationship.

Patterns, habits, and practices give structure and rhythm to our lives, but practicing artificial rituals should never become an end in itself. Purposeful worship moves us from just going through prescribed checklists of activities and expected rituals to enjoying a living, breathing relationship with the Living God.


Purposeful, worship should move us from creating an entertaining and emotionally moving experience to building worship that is life-changing and life-giving.

This all requires us to ask new questions.

Instead of: Will the people like it?

Ask: How will it grow them?


Instead of: What great new songs will we sing?

Ask: What enduring truths will we nurture?


Instead of: What will they think of me?

Ask: How will they move toward God?

And- What can I do to facilitate that?


Instead of: How will I measure up?

Ask: How can I serve?

Worship can make a difference. Worship should make a difference. You can shape worship that builds worshipers who live in fellowship with God as obedient Christ-followers powered by the Holy Spirit. As a worship leader, that is your calling.

How are you feeling?

Farmer Roscoe decided his injuries from the accident were serious enough to take the trucking company (responsible for the accident) to court. In court the trucking company’s fancy lawyer was questioning farmer Roscoe.

“Didn’t you say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine’?” said the lawyer.

Farmer Roscoe responded, “Well I’ll tell you what happened. I had just loaded my favorite mule Bessie into the….”

“I didn’t ask for any details,” the lawyer interrupted, “just answer the question.” “Did you not say, at the scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine!”

Farmer Roscoe said, “Well I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road….”

The lawyer interrupted again and said, “Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the Highway Patrolman that he was just fine. Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client. I believe he is a fraud. Please tell him to simply answer the question.”

By this time the Judge was fairly interested in Farmer Roscoe’s answer and said to the lawyer, “I’d like to hear what he has to say about his favorite mule Bessie.”

Roscoe thanked the Judge and proceeded, “Well as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi‑truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side. I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other. I was hurting real bad and didn’t want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning.  I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans. Shortly after the accident a Highway Patrolman came on the scene.  He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning so he went over to her. After he looked at her, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes.  Then the Patrolman came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me.  He said, “Your mule was in such bad shape I had to shoot her. How are you feeling?”

Defining Worship (2) Building a framework for worship.

In the previous post, we looked at how our views of worship often depend more on our personal experience than on some objective standard. Rather than complaining about worship that is lacking in some way, or being frustrated by your lack of understanding about what is supposed to look like, think about building worship that makes a difference

Worship is an active, purposeful, relational encounter with God.  In worship, we practice relationship with God.

Worship is active, not passive. We are actively involved with God and Him with us.

Worship is purposeful. Worship is not haphazard. God draws us into worship and we should respond expectantly.

Worship is relational, not just a ritual performed for an aloof diety. It is a 2 way relationship.

Worship is with God.  God invented and initiated worship. God is the object of worship, but it is through His power that we are able to worship.


God created you in His own image. He desires to have fellowship with you. He has far more invested in you than you can begin to comprehend and He wants to have a relationship with you. Worship is built on that relationship with God, and is the activity in which you practice that relationship. The relationship is not among equals. The God of the universe is far greater than you and has done far more for you than you can begin to comprehend. Yet, He invites us to be in relationship with Him. So you see that worship is not just something that you do for God, but also something you do along with God.

Even as God calls us into worship, He, in fact, does all of the heavy lifting.

He reveals Himself through scripture, preaching, and music- (sometimes in spite of our best efforts.) He loves, gives grace, brings hope, and offers forgiveness and redemption. He empowers by giving us the gifts, talents and abilities that enable us to relate with Him. He does what we can’t do and brings what we can’t bring.

Since worship is where we practice relationship with God, it is helpful if we can develop some basic structures and standards that will give us direction as to how we go about approaching God in worship.  Here are four tenets for worship that I think will help to direct our focus, both for gathered worship and for personal worship. In worship, we:

Praise, honor and adore God

Tune our hearts to God’s heart and listen

Learn, be reminded of, and gratefully remember what God has done,

Respond actively and obediently to God.


Praise, honor and adore God  

When we truly love God, we can’t help but to praise Him. The act of praising, honoring, and adoring God helps us maintain proper perspective of the magnificence of who God is in comparison to our unworthiness. It sets the tone for worship and calibrates within us a proper attitude and perspective. God is God and we are not. When we praise, honor, and adore God, we are treating Him with utmost respect. In order to adequately do this we must bring our best to worship- using our emotions, intellect, and will, as well as being well prepared and well rested in order to show our best efforts and talents.


Tune your heart to God’s heart and listen

Listen to God and hear His word for you.

Let Him capture your attention.

Focus on God and align your purposes with His purposes.

Worship is dialogue, so it includes both speaking and listening.

Recognize the majesty of who God is and the breadth of His creation. He created it all and yet He is interested in you.

Worship God with fear and trembling- in awe of His greatness, majesty, power, and love.

Adjust your heart to His heart, listen and obey.

Connect with God’s Heart- He’s reaching out to you.


Learn, be reminded of, and gratefully remember what God has done

We need to be reminded that God is the all-powerful creator of the universe, the Giver of life, and our loving Father.

We need to be reminded that we are made in His image. This instructs us as to how we are to view ourselves as well as how to relate to others, and to His creation.

We need to be reminded of our sin, and that we are sinners, but also reminded of God’s grace and the power of His forgiveness and salvation.

We need to be reminded of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as He took the punishment for our guilt, was victorious over death, and the eternal life that His sacrifice promises.

We need to be reminded of what He is doing, that He is working in our world and in our lives, and of His good gifts and blessings to us.

We need to be reminded of His teachings and of our responsibilities to be faithful to those teachings.

In gathered worship, preaching, teaching, prayer, singing, listening, Bible reading, study, testimonies, meditation, confession, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are all useful tools through which we learn and are reminded of what God has done.


Respond actively and obediently to God

Authentic worship is not measured by feelings but by actions. The resulting response to the activity of worship is obedience. Respond actively and obediently to God by letting worship overflow into your everyday living- your thoughts, lifestyle, and worldview. Respond obediently by heeding God’s calling on your life. Live by praising, respecting, and admiring God, allowing Him to direct your behavior. Listen to and obey His prompting by following His precepts, and gratefully submitting to His influence. This obedience should lead to evangelism, discipleship, ministry and service, and to your expressing the fruit of the spirit in your daily life. If your obedience is not evident to others, and your life is not being changed, then no matter how much you are enjoying the experience, you are not really worshiping.

Try using these tenets as a checklist as you prepare and evaluate the worship that you plan and lead.